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Heading Out Review – Epic Tunes, Choice-Driven Narrative

Heading Out is a narrative road racing adventure developed by Serious Sim and published by Saber Interactive. The game launches on May 7, 2024, and from my first viewing of the trailer it felt like we would be playing similar scenes as those found in the 2005 hit movie Sin City. The black and white scenes with red brake lights and police lights, yellow signs and red flickers in the clouds above created a visually stunning and moody atmosphere. You’re running from you own fears, your past, and the cops in a thrilling escape across a 1970s-inspired American landscape. A controller is required to play the game on PC.

You start the game by making three narrative choices, or you can roll the dice and let the game pick them for you. This sets up your history and starts to weave threads in the greater story, before throwing you behind the wheel of a classic muscle car in Act I. While driving is a core mechanic, Heading Out is more than just a racing game. You’ll encounter narrative choices that impact your journey. Are you outrunning the law or a mysterious past? Will you be an outright criminal or a righteous vigilante doing good deeds while on the run. These choices influence the story and add tonnes of replay value. It’s kind of akin to a game like Road 96 only this time you’re racing rather than running around in person.

As you drive across states you will need to be mindful of your speed, with a red line indicating you’re over the state’s speed limit and will attract attention from police cars. In addition, you need to ensure your tank is full of fuel, your vehicle is in good working order and monitor your driver fatigue. As you enter key towns and cities, you are presented with options for which major highway you want to take next, and you’ll see points of interest in each direction. You can also enter the town which may have gas stations, coffee shops and repair shops along the way, where you can purchase items to replenish you and the vehicle.

Points of interest range from street races where you challenge another driver, first to the finish line for a couple of bucks, police chases, to scenes where you are given choices of how you want to react. The latter scenes are portrayed as comic book style interactions where you’ll make some choices as to how you react. This affects your fame as you are on the run – you could choose to help two boys who are vandalising sign or report them to the police. You come across a scene where a couple are admiring a tourist destination, and you can either choose a civil or criminal act. As you gain fame, the local radio stations soon start to talk about your activities as the authorities narrow in on your position.

Races in Heading Out have you racing other racers or running from cops for the length of some awesome songs from the games outstanding soundtrack. The length of the song will determine the length of the race/chase and along the way you can take shortcuts and perform stunts to escape the cops or win the race, gaining more fame along the way. The higher your fame, the tougher the cops will be in their pursuit and it’s a bit like Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit where they’ll try set up roadblocks.

Each race has multiple detours and sidetracks you can take you try gain an advantage, but most are like farm access roads so have gates and fences that you smash through. You will need to be mindful of the damage done to your car, though it is minor really. I did have a head-on collision with a car that I didn’t see until the last minute due to a jump on the road. I thought for sure it would end that race, however after flipping and landing on my wheels, I was able to continue driving and still won the race.

Some sequences were called ‘chill races’ and it’s just you, the long open road, and a killer tune playing as you speed along the highway, dodging other vehicles. I loved these the most as there was no pressure, and because of the choices of songs played at the time, like ‘Same Old Road’ – such a great driving song. There’s a decent mix of genres of songs presented and I am definitely looking into the game’s soundtrack, available with the deluxe edition of the game.

Completing each Act gives you a summary of your escapades listing how many shortcuts you took, your fame level and reputation levels, and a summary of events and the choices you made with them. You will also unlock a heap of things for the next act, such as a new hot rod car for Act II, more opponents in races and tougher cops, new quests, and more interactions along the way.

Overall, Heading Out is a stylish and engaging game that delivers a unique blend of racing and narrative adventure with an outstanding soundtrack. Each song sets the tone of the race or event you’re in well and the narrative choices presented along the way makes for great replay value. If you’re looking for a road trip with a twist and a heavy dose of 1970s road trip nostalgia, then this game is definitely worth checking out.

This review utilised a key provided by Sandbox Strategies and Heading Out releases on May 7, 2024, on Steam.

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